Tag Archives: self-publishing

CRUNCH TIME! :D

Yeah, I put a stupid happy face in the title. It seemed fitting.

The past month or so has been weird for me. I finished up post-alpha reader revisions on Into Elurien several weeks before it was scheduled to go to my editor, and she was kind enough to let me send it in so I’d stop picking at it, and in case she could get to it a bit early.

Sue may be a kindred spirit. She gets it.

Anyway, I had another project to work on after I sent that off. A big one. Probably the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done, in style if not scope or size. It’s a story I’ve been excited about since the idea popped into my head early one morning last year, and I’ve been itching to get to it.

And yet.

This is going to sound horribly unprofessional, especially if you’re familiar with the production styles of other writers, many of whom crank books out in a month, work on two or three books at a time in various states of production, and have no trouble jumping from story to story… but I really hate working on multiple projects.

I just don’t deal well with interruptions. I can’t start working in the morning if I know I’m likely to be interrupted in an hour by Jehovah’s Witnesses*.  I like hours to spread out, get my head into whatever I’m working on… time to procrastinate… I know, it’s a problem. I’m working on it!

My point is, I had a hard time getting momentum on the first draft of The Phoenix Game (working title) when I knew Into Elurien would be coming back before I got through the draft. I like to push through drafts in one go, so the knowledge that I’d be interrupted–even a few weeks down the road–was distracting and demotivating.

So as much as I adore this new book and all of its puzzling challenges, it was actually a relief when I opened my email yesterday to find Into Elurien back safe from edits. I mean, it’s bleeding, but it’s basically cosmetic issues. Big change from my full-length novels, which come back hacked to shreds, requiring a month or more of work to put them back together.

So that’s progress, and I’m excited to get IE done so I can then turn my full attention back to PG and really dig deep into it.

Today I get to return to my beloved Hazel, who’s going to be getting a little character work done to help her story flow well. I get to get reacquainted with Auphel, who’s stealing hearts wherever she goes. And I get to see Zinian again, who’s just… Yeah. It’s getting hard having my heart split between all of my book guys. He’s special. I want one.

What was I saying?

Right. PROGRESS! I’ve got beta readers lined up for the beginning of May. Pre-orders going up May 15. Release day June 15. Parties. Giveaways. Teasers.

And, of course, the cover reveal TOMORROW. AND sending out the newsletter, in which subscribers will meet Zinian for themselves. First excerpt. GAH. Excitement! Flailing!

You can probably tell I’m excited about this book. 😉

Into elurien promo square release month

 

*Yes, they come once a week. They know I’m not converting, but I AM learning a lot about prophecy and beliefs other than my own, which are Totally Useful Things in my line of work. And they’re really nice.

Advertisements

Author Chat: Celine Jeanjean on Sequels

Hi, everyone! Today it’s my pleasure to host a guest author on the blog. If you’ve been hanging around here, or if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know how much I enjoyed The Bloodless Assassin (formerly titled The Viper and the Urchin) by Celine Jeanjean. The sequel, The Black Orchid, is currently available for pre-order and releases tomorrow, so it seemed like a great time to chat with Celine about the unique challenges presented by sequels.

(Cover art by the excessively talented Ravven)

Writing your first book is hard. The next is another beast entirely.

This post is an edited transcript of our recent chat. As interesting as our tangents about cover art (what is with all of the beheaded hot dudes and drowning chicks, anyway?), reacting to reviews, our dogs, and the current state of publishing were, we’ll try to keep this post on topic. 🙂

KS: So, Celine, would you like to give us a quick introduction to what your books are about?

CJ: Sure! The series follows Longinus (the Viper) and Rory (the urchin). Longinus is a pedantic assassin with an inconvenient blood phobia. Rory’s an urchin girl with big dreams of becoming a famous swordswoman. They meet when Rory saves Longinus during an assassination gone wrong and then blackmails him so he’ll teach her swordfighting. It’s pretty much irritation at first sight for them both. They argue, they get on each other’s nerves, and ultimately become very close in a very platonic way.

The books are both fun action capers, they’re a mix of steampunk, non-magic fantasy (in that they take place in another world than ours) and there’s quite a bit of humour. And then each story has a darker mystery running throughout, where Rory and Longinus find themselves fighting to save the city.

KS: And now it’s sequel time.When did you start working on The Black Orchid? Was that something you had drafted before The Bloodless Assassin came out? Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?

CJ: I had a completely blank slate after Bloodless Assassin was finished. I always wanted each book to work as a standalone, so I had no particular idea of what would happen next, other than Rory and Longinus would get into some trouble together. Likewise, I didn’t get the idea for book 3 until I was nearly done with The Black Orchid. There’s a bit of an emotional thread running throughout the books, in that the characters grow and change over time, but that’s as much as I know before I start writing a story. Although I think I might know the overall story for book 4 already. That might change as I write book 3, mind you. One thing’s for sure, I have so much fun creating new cities that I think Rory and Longinus will do a lot of travelling as the series develops!

KS: And you gave us a fantastic glimpse of that worldbuilding on your blog not long ago. I can’t wait to see what locations you create next! I find your series process interesting. And it strikes me as brave, because I would totally freak out if I didn’t have some idea what was going to happen next. I drafted Torn before Bound’s release, and Sworn before Torn’s release.

CJ: Yours is a continuous story whereas mine are separate stories with a common thread. I imagine if I wrote something like Bound, I’d plan out the whole thing first.

KS: I really had only a vague idea how the larger story would end when I released Bound. I’m glad I did things the way I did for the series, being able to plant seeds in earlier books that would sprout later, but leaving lots of room for exploration. Each book was a really unique experience for me. Did you find you faced different challenges in writing this book compared to what you dealt with for book one?

CJ: Yes absolutely. One of the challenges I found was dealing with the Worst Case Scenario of writing each book. When I was writing Bloodless Assassin, I kept picturing the worst thing that could happen: that nobody read the book (or that a handful of people read it and left 1 star reviews – I could never decide which was worse). But then I told myself that if that happened, then nobody would actually know about my book, so I could quietly retire it and start again from scratch. That made it less scary because I could see how I’d pick myself up if I failed, so most of the time I was just having fun with Bloodless Assassin.

With Black Orchid, I have readers now, and those readers have expectations. Which is a wonderful thing, of course, and I’m incredibly grateful, but I’ve found that this time my Worst Case Scenario is much harder to ignore: the idea of people who loved Bloodless Assassin reading Black Orchid and putting it aside, disappointed. I found myself second guessing what I wrote a lot more. Writing a book 1 in a series is far more freeing because there’s zero expectations, so you can literally just have fun with it. With book 2 there’s definitely a whole lot more pressure. Thankfully I did manage to set it aside most of the time so I’m not quite a basket-case yet.

And then from a more ‘technical’ standpoint, I found that with a sequel you have more of a balance to tread. You want to have the stuff people seemed to love in book 1 but at the same time make book 2 a unique thing that’s not just a rehashing of book 1 (I’m looking at you, bad Hollywood sequels). And part of that for me was trying to make sure there was as much of a sense of discovery in terms of the setting in Black Orchid as there was in Bloodless Assassin, despite it taking place in the same city.

KS: I think we may be kindred spirits. We have the same worries/paranoias. ^_^

CJ: Did you find publishing book 2 harder than book 1?

KS: I think the hardest thing about writing the middle book in a trilogy was making it its own story. None of them are intended as standalones, but each book needed a complete story arc and a definite challenge for each character to overcome, and Torn had to bridge the gap between the beginning and the series climax.

Do you have any advice for authors embarking on the sequel experience?

CJ: I think for sequel writing, the most important thing is keeping reader voices out of your head – even if it’s very positive stuff. One thing I fell prey to while writing Black Orchid was at some point consciously trying to please readers. I wrote this whole (rather large bit) which was totally created on the back of some very nice reader comments — because I really wanted to give them more of the stuff they’d liked. And it was totally wrong for the story and I had to cut it all out. That’s not to say it was worthless, it might even be transformed into a little side novella, but I realised how important it is not to let people into your head as you’re writing.

KS: That’s good advice! I think that was one place where having a definite idea of where my trilogy/story was going helped me. People wanted certain things to happen, and I already knew “no, that’s not going to be a thing,” or “I think this person will be happy about where this goes.”

CJ: Yes, that would really help. Probably a big advantage of trilogies over standalones
Did you know how the whole thing was going to end by the way, from the start?

KS: I knew a few big things, but not exactly how they would happen or how everyone would get there. I’m glad I knew the things I did so I could get those ideas started in earlier books and build to them rather than throwing concepts in at the last minute, but I’m also glad I got to explore and be surprised.

To wrap up:  What do you think makes a strong sequel? You mentioned bad movie sequels. How do you avoid that?

CJ: For me a bad sequel is a sequel written for the wrong reasons. Bad Hollywood sequels for me stink of business men rubbing their hands at how much money they’ll be able to make from it. A sequel has to be written with as much artistic integrity as the first book, and if the story was done at book 1, then it needs to stay done at book 1.

KS: Thanks so much for taking time to chat with me about sequels! I think we’ll need to do this again some time. Unleash all of our ideas on all of those other topics on the world. 🙂

CJ: Thank you so much for having me, this was fun! We should definitely do it again, if only to cover some of our many, many tangents! 😉

Here’s the link to The Bloodless Assassin (which you should all definitely check out–one of my favourite indie books from the past few years), and to the sequel, The Black Orchid. You can find Celine here at her site.

Thanks for joining us!

-K


The End of the Adventure.

series

So today is Sworn’s release day.

How am I feeling?

Excited. I’m more proud of this book than anything I’ve done before, and I’ve never released anything I wasn’t 100% in love with. I can’t wait for readers to see how the story ends. Those who have read it have been extremely enthusiastic about it, which makes me even more excited. Sworn is already creeping up the Amazon charts, which is pretty damned cool.

And I feel drained. Yesterday’s release party was a total blast, but eight hours at the computer does take it out of you (thank heavens for guest authors who popped in for giveaways so I could eat!). And I probably don’t have to explain why I haven’t been sleeping well for a while, with everything I’ve had to do to get ready for the release.

And proud. This has been the biggest project I’ve ever taken on, and I’ve done it without a boss or a publisher breathing down my neck. This has been my baby from start to finish, from draft to editor selection to cover design to proofreading. And I did it. Hell yes, I’m proud of my easily-distracted and procrastination-prone and self-doubting self for pulling this off.

And sad. I’ve been working with these characters for five years now, and we’ve grown a lot together. I’m not ready for this to be over. I’m going to miss them and their world.

And thankful. I say this has been my baby, but I wouldn’t be here without my critique partners, my beta readers, my editors, my cover artist, the blog friends who have shared posts and supported me…

…and the readers. I’m so overwhelmed with thankfulness for the readers. The people who buy books, read books, recommend books, review books, share books, and above all LOVE books. The people who bring characters and worlds to life in their imaginations, who carry parts of their favourite characters with them even when they story is done.

My stories would just be words without them.

And okay, I’m a little scared. I feel like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff. I have to jump into a new story (already started and going swimmingly, due out in June… with an actual outside deadline this time). And that’s fine. It’s exciting. And it’s terrifying.

But I’ll get through it. And I’m glad you guys will be here with me to see this adventure through.

And the next.

And the next.

Thank you.

**Sworn purchase links available at www.katesparkes.com 

(PS- thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word about the sale! The full trilogy is now available for under $10 USD, at least on retailers that don’t adjust prices upward. Not too shabby!)

sworn release pricing promo


WIPpet Wednesday – Awkward Spoiler Avoidance Edition (and a lesson learned)

WIP it… (duh nuh nuh nuh)… W-WIP it real good!

Sorry, I was tired of getting Devo stuck in my head every time WIPpet Wednesday rolled around. Thought I’d try Salt n’ Peppa. You know, instead of “Push It”.

It’s not actually better. Live and learn. *sigh*

WIPpet Wednesday is the day where we post a snippet from a work in progress that relates in some way to the day’s date. I’ve been having a lot of trouble participating lately, because a) I’m busy, and I don’t post if I know I can’t get around to comment (though I sometimes miss a few who post late–sorry! I’ll try harder!), and b) I’m seriously running out of spoiler-free snippets from Torn.

Like… even saying who’s in it is a spoiler, aside from the obvious suspects.

So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to share a big snippet, and I’m not going to say who’s in it. The POV character (herein referred to as “I”) is female and a Potioner, and that’s all I’m saying. The other party in the conversation is a dude, and… we’ll call him Y here.

Warning: If you’ve read Bound and really don’t want to know whether certain species are going to show up again, skip it. You’ll probably guess. I doubt anyone will be disappointed, but there you have it. 🙂

Okay, it’s super obvious. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

19 (short) paragraphs. WIPpet math: 1+1+8+2+0+1+5 = 18, plus one to grow on.

I’d only need one more ingredient. I brought out one of the daggers that my unfortunate soldier friend had left behind.

“Can I help?” Y’s voice drifted from the trees behind me.

“You’re getting quieter,” I observed. “I barely heard you coming.”

Y stood up straighter. “I’m working on it. I don’t think I’ll ever be as graceful on land as I am in [awkward redaction], though. What are you doing?”

“Trying to be prepared. You might not want to see this.”

The shadows covered much of his face, but I caught the concerned furrow of his brow. “Do you want me to leave? Whatever it is, I can handle it.”

The firm set of his jaw and the look in his eyes told me he wasn’t lying. I wondered what he’d seen in his life. Such a strange man. I couldn’t deny I was glad to have his assistance, and his company. Something about him calmed my mind, even as his presence tended to do the opposite to my body. I could ignore that, though.

“You can stay, if you want to,” I said. “Hold the bowl for me.”

He stepped into the clearing and cupped the bowl in his hands, holding it out from his body. “Like this?”

“Perfect.” I slipped off my cloak, then tried to roll up my sleeves. They were too tight. The whole thing would have to go. I thought about asking Y to close his eyes. We didn’t need to complicate things further.

Don’t be silly, I told myself. You’re both adults. He’s seen more, and probably prettier.

Y’s eyes widened as I unbuttoned my shirt, then swallowed hard as I slipped it off, leaving me in a thin under-shirt in the cold woods.

I waited for his gaze to return to mine. “Don’t [oh, so very redacted] go around naked most of the time?”

“Yes.”

I raised my eyebrows, and fought back a smile when his eyes wandered again.

“It’s just different with you,” he said. “It’s fine. Carry on. Please.”

I took a deep breath and traced the tip of the dagger over the skin of my arm, trying to decide on the best spot to get what I needed while doing the smallest possible amount of damage. I settled on the top of my forearm and stroked the tip of the dagger gently over my skin once, twice, three times, building my nerve.

“Use my blood, if you want,” Y said.

“No. Thank you. I’ve had worse injuries.”

“So have I.”

Well, my work here is done. Smoothly done, Sparkes. SMOOOOTHLY DONE.

O.o

For more and probably less awkward WIPpet Wednesday fun, scoot on over here to the linkie, and feel free to join in on your own blog. Thanks to KL Schwengel for hosting!

But seriously, guys, I think I’m out for a few weeks.

ROW80 Update

On the only goal that matters at the moment: Still editing. I think I have about eight chapters left to go, only two of which are full rewrites.

*cough*

Yes, it makes things harder. Yes, it’s more work than I thought I’d be doing two months shy of the projected publication date. It’s going to be worth it, though.

I’m done stressing about dates. Some people might be irritated if things are delayed by a week, but once the book’s out, no one will care. As I’ve said before, I’m not half-assing anything to meet a deadline.

My readers deserve my best. No shortcuts.

For the record, there will be no promises, speculation, or hints about the next book’s release date until after edits (professional, not self-edits). We’re looking at the same kind of space between books as we were this time, but beyond that, my lips are sealed.

Having a deadline is motivating, but it’s useless when it stresses you out too much to do anything.

Consider that a lesson learned.

ROW80 posts or to learn about the event, click here

 


So Long, Farewell…

I’m typing this quickly, and at 5:00 in the morning. There’s a feeling of adventure about being up at this time of day when you’re not used to it. It feels like the days when my parents used to wake us up early so we could get the long drive to my grandparents’ cottage out of the way before:

a) traffic hit in Toronto

or

b) my brother and I were awake enough to “ARE WE THERE, YET?” the whole way

…I’m not actually sure what the reasoning was, there.

The point is, ADVENTURE.

Well, my friends, I’m on a different kind of adventure this morning.

Edits are back, after a few delays in getting started and finished. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not pretty. There’s more work to do than I’d anticipated based on early reader responses, thanks to some amazing ideas from my editor on how to make this thing kick more ass.

Like, ALL OF THE ASSES.

Mature, I know.

Mature, I know.

It’s the advantage and the disadvantage of getting developmental/substantive edits, I guess. There’s no “I can whip through this in a week by accepting and rejecting line edits,” which I imagine feels pretty sweet. There’s more gnashing of teeth this way, more re-writing of scenes and re-considering of elements, and more hard questions about everything. It leads to more self-doubt, for me at least, and more heartburn.

But damned if it doesn’t lead to a better, stronger, more satisfying and more entertaining book in the end. Bound was good before those big, bad edits. It came out of the fire far better. I’m aiming for the same here, and want to create the most amazing book I can for the readers who are making all of this possible.

So what does this all mean?

For me, it means a lot of hard work. I still want to stick to the time-frame I had planned, but… well, remember when I joked about becoming an editing-cave troll through much of the winter?

I thought at the time that I was exaggerating. I was not.

It means you’re going to see less of me around here, and on Facebook, and elsewhere. That stings. Authors these days are expected to stay on top of social media, and quite frankly, I enjoy it. I love you guys. Chatting with you in comments and posts makes me smile.

But that’s why I need to back off. Because you deserve the best.

Torn is a good story. It’s one I believe in, and one beta readers already loved. And after going through editing notes, I believe it can be great. Better than Bound (and isn’t improvement always the goal?).

It also may mean a delay in the book’s release. It definitely means I’m not putting a firm release date out there until I’m at least through the larger re-writes. If I were free to work on this all day, every day, I’d say there would be no problem sticking to my original goal. But I’m not. Technically, writing’s not my full-time job–my family is, and they’re not going to be pleased if I throw bags of uncooked ramen noodles at them every day for the next few months instead of cooking, or if they have no clean underwear… ever.

I know. Totally unreasonable, right? But I’m basically stuck working the 5 hours a day when the kids are in school, weekends off.

So here’s the plan.

I’m using this up-early time to write this post, and then to go over notes again, read through the line edits, see what changes I’m going to make, and which I’m not. It’s not an easy process, but it’s step one. After that, it’s organizing, brainstorming, re-writes, minor edits, line edits… and then my wonderful second-round beta readers will get their hands on it and tell me how we’re looking.

I’ll keep you all up to date on what’s happening as we go.

Yes, I’d still like to do pre-orders by the end of February. Yes, I’d still like to release in March.

But quality first. This isn’t an assembly line.

It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.


Snow Day (Or: How I Decided to Participate in ROW80 Again)

I’ve been on the fence about participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days this year. It’s a fantastic event-type-thing, and accountability is a great way to stay on-track with goals. It’s fun to meet other writers and read their posts, learn from their frustrations and share in their joy when things are going well.

But.

Well, I do worry about boring blog readers, which is why I only post updates on Wednesdays to go along with WIPpet Wednesdays. There was a time when most of the people following this blog were writer friends, but we’re gaining more and more of my readers (hi, guys! So happy to have you!).

It’s almost like I need a writing blog and an actual website for readers, isn’t it? But this is my home. This is where I stretch out, make myself comfortable, and talk about the things that are important to me. Reading, writing, life, headaches, distractions, moose sightings, cover reveals and other author promos, pretty pictures and fun teasers… there aren’t really any limits.

So everything stays here, for better or worse.

I didn’t make the decision until I realized that today was the first day of round one. See, I was looking forward to getting back to work today, as the kids are back to school.

Or they should have been. But it’s a snow day. So instead of retreating to my office with a coffee, I’m at the kitchen table writing this post.

Funny how things work out.

I’ll probably stick with just posting updates on Wednesdays. Twice a week doesn’t allow much time for change between updates. Wouldn’t want to bore anyone who’s getting e-mail dings every time I post.

 

And guys? This is going to be a big round (ends March 26).

**ROW80 ROUND ONE GOALS (2015)**

 

WRITING

Proof-read Bound: Yes, I did this before publication. Many times. So many times that I still can’t really enjoy reading it. But I’ve re-formatted the e-book in a program that allows me to make it look nicer AND to make corrections without knowing HTML stuff, so I need to go over that.

Also, there’s a big, secret thing happening, and I need this book to put its absolute best foot forward for it. I’ve caught 2 typos. Moved a few commas. Changed a word or two. Tiny fixes. Nothing has changed with story, characters, dialogue, anything. Nooooo revisions. So no worries, dear readers. It’s like dusting the shelves (but hey, hang on to those first-edition paperbacks…).

Goal: Finish by Wednesday, January 7 (currently at 70% finished)

 

Edits on Torn: My editor says he plans to have these back to me by the end of this week.

**WOO, PARTY!!!**

We had some delays in getting started, but I’m ready to work hard to get through this as efficiently as possible. How long it actually takes will depend on the scope of revisions required. My beta readers didn’t tell me to make any big story changes… we’ll see what the editor says. I had to re-write sections of Bound after he got his hands on it (and thank goodness for that!).

Goal: Come what may, finish by the end of January.

 

Other Torn stuff: I need to be super organized on this goal, which includes proof-reading, sending it out to a few readers who have offered to act as true beta testers and error-catchers, formatting, setting up pre-orders, having someone format the paperback, sending paperback info to my cover artist so she can do the wrap-around cover, doing promo stuff for Bound once pre-orders are up for Torn…

And also organizing the cover reveal, the first chapter release, creating teaser pics, pulling my hair out, angst, stomach upset… I’m swamped.

Goal: Varies. Set up pre-orders by mid-February. Other events to follow. Advance review copies (offered to newsletter subscribers first) sent out early March.

 

Release Torn: Yes, before the end of this round. As I’ve said before, I’d rather release late than release something that’s not ready, but I’m confident that we can pull this off, even if I have to turn into an unwashed editing-cave troll to do it.

*grunts, shuffles, squints at sunlight*

I’ll keep you updated on that, and announce an official release date soon.

 

Bound Trilogy Book Three: Obviously I’m going to be busy with Torn through this round. But I need to keep moving forward with book three if I want it out by the end of the year. It’s looking good, but I’ve had a few ideas on how to make it better, smoother, more satisfying, and more epic. Those revisions will take place in March while all of the fiddly, non-writing stuff is happening with Torn (I hope). Then it’s off to my wonderful first readers for a test drive, and then whatever punishments they decide to hand me afterward. FUN.

Seriously, though, I will never understand how some authors get a book from first draft to release in two or three months. Between developmental edits, line edits, two rounds of readers, and corrections, never mind the three drafts I do before any of that happens… not a schedule I can hope to achieve.

READING

Still aiming for one novel and one non-fiction book a month. Right now I’m reading UnSouled by Neil Schusterman, and then I think the next one by Jenn Wylie is up. But I also just bought Gone Girl, which I’m told I won’t be able to put down… we’ll see what I’m in the mood for. This might be a two novel month. I’m determined to get through “Writing 21st Century Fiction” even though I’ve been stuck on it for a year because it’s dry as bricks and feels like the author is talking down to me. I’ve never had this problem with Donald Maass’ books before. We’ll see how it goes, I might DNF it and give it away. Fiction Unboxed is also in the non-fiction queue, and I’m more excited about that.

LIFE

Aiming for balance, for working during work time, social media-ing during social media time, making more time for housework and giving my family my full attention during their time.

That last one shouldn’t be difficult, but it really is. I know. I’m a horrible person.

^These are not quantifiable goals in this section, but they’re reportable. We’ll see how it goes.

So there we have it. Wish me luck, and if you’re participating in this round, let me know so I can stop by and cheer you on in your goals post!

More ROW80 goodness here.

 


Trusting My Instincts (And Where They Took Me This Year)

Some people choose a word at the beginning of the year to be their theme, keep their goals on-track, and direct their work. I think that’s a fantastic idea. I might even try it for 2015.

Again.

See, I have a hard time remembering my word, which makes it somewhat ineffective. But one thing I can do right now is look back at 2014 and spot the One Thing. The lesson I learned. The progress in my personal character arc that this section of my story pulled out of me.

2014 was the year I learned to trust my instincts.

(This is going to be a writing/publishing/sales post. You’re excused if this topic bores you. No hard feelings. We’ll talk about future projects next time, which should be more exciting for most of us. WHEE, FUN!)

See, independent publishing is a wonderful thing, or at least it can be under the right circumstances. But it is a business as much as it is a creative endeavour, and it requires a LOT of decision-making.

And me? I suck at decisions.

Publishing

I find it hard to believe how much happened this year. As of early 2014 I was firmly prepared to get Bound out to the world by publishing it myself. I had considered the options and decided not to seek out an agent and publishing contract for this project. I’d booked an editor, paid my deposit, and was… actually, I was still tearing my hair out over the decision. I knew I had the right editor, I’d picked an amazing cover designer, and I felt confident that I had a solid story even if I knew it still needed work.

But I had doubts. I read success stories, but I read more about people who were excited to be earning coffee money from their books. This is not to say that that’s not an achievement. Reaching even one reader and giving them a story they fall in love with is the goal. To change one person, to have an impact on her… it’s mind-blowing. It’s why I do this.

But when you’re paying several thousand dollars for production costs and want to maintain the same standards on book two, you want to make that back ASAP. And there are no guarantees. None. Amazing books do poorly and crap rises to the top as often as it goes the other way.

And on top of that, there are the well-meaning friends who have gone ahead with publishing their work who tell you, “Yeah, have fun with your book getting ignored. You can’t do it without an agent and a publisher. Trust me.”

It can become difficult to have confidence in your plans, you know? But my instincts told me this was the way to go (emphasis on me–this is not for everyone). My gut said I could do it myself, but I couldn’t go it alone. I couldn’t do my own editing and cover design. But I was starting a business, and those things were the expenses I’d have to handle if I wanted it to have a chance at success. I made the decision, and it felt right.

And yet I still hesitated.

For a real example of how uncertain I was, look no further than the fact that I didn’t officially announce Bound’s upcoming release until after I got edits back and realized that though the manuscript bled red from every page, I could handle the changes.

It’s like not really committing to a relationship until you’re walking down the aisle.

But I digress.

 

The Other Stuff

It wasn’t all about the method of publication, though that was absolutely the biggest decision I had to trust my gut on in 2014.

There were the decisions I had to make about which developmental suggestions to take from my editor. All were good suggestions; not all fit my vision for the story and the direction I wanted to take the series. I stuck to my guns on one huge aspect of the love story, the end of the book, and… actually, I took almost every other suggestion, including re-working the back-story for the entire world.

And it worked. It’s not a perfect book (I don’t believe such a thing exists), but it’s the one I wanted to write.

There was the cover art, and on this I had to trust someone else’s experience and instincts. I wanted something symbolic, but nothing we came up with had the impact a book needs to sell. We talked about a cover with a character on it–an idea I instinctively balked at, but that turned into a cover that has gained a lot of attention from readers. Ravven knows book covers. I don’t. Even when I wasn’t 100% sure on the finished product, I trusted the part of me that said to trust her.

And it worked.

There was the question of going with Amazon’s KDP Select and gaining extra promo opportunities, or distributing more widely. That’s its own post, and we’ve talked about it before. I stayed out of Select, and have only occasionally and temporarily regretted that decision. Have I missed some opportunities to promote? Yes. Has Amazon punished me for it? Absolutely not. I sell over 90% of my books there. They’ve been amazing.

So yeah, that seems to be working for me. Whew!

I had to decide whether to heavily promote Bound when it was my only book, or put that time and energy into working on the next one. I chose the latter.

No regrets there.

There were lovely e-mails from people at companies I won’t name here asking about audio rights or publication opportunities. I accepted one offer and regretfully declined discussion on another that I’d have jumped at a year ago, but that didn’t fit my plan for this series at this time.

That was a tough one. I do hope to work with those people on another project some day. But I followed my instincts again, and I feel good about my decision.

There was the pricing issue. There’s some pressure to release a first novel at 99 cents to try to get more impulse purchases, or to make it free just on the off chance that people might read it if it’s in their Kindles. I struggled with this for a long time. I had invested a lot into this book, both in time and money. I had an eye-catching cover, a blurb that I thought worked, and a sample that I trusted to draw readers in. My gut told me to let those things to do their job and let the sales come as they may.

There’s nothing wrong with 99 cent sales, or 99 cent releases, or perma-free first books in series. You have to do what works for you, and I’ll do occasional sales in the future. But I knew that three bucks was a hell of a deal for this book. Heck, $4.99 is a bargain. Amazon says I should price it higher, but I don’t.**

I’m doing what feels right for me when it comes to pricing, price changes, and sales. I’m not dropping the price just to chase Amazon ranking. I’m gathering honest review. I’m trying to really connect with people through social media instead of spamming.

Everything is about long-term strategy, and so far, it’s working.

 

The results of trusting my instincts

How well is it working?

Ugh. I hate to talk about it, but I do find it helpful when other authors share results, so here goes.

Thanks to a combination of factors***, Bound stayed in the top 10 of several sub-category Best Seller lists all summer, and sat at #1 on two of them for quite a while. It’s still in two top 50’s, and in the top 100 of a third six months after release.

Fullscreen capture 2014-07-20 84034 AM.bmp

^Back in June. Aah, memories!

 

At its best day, it was in the top 500 overall on Amazon.com. At its lowest, it’s hovered around 10,000. I expect this to keep dropping, and that’s fine. Really. Juuuust fine.

*anxiety explosion*

As of the six month mark (Christmas Eve), it had sold over 15,000 copies in e-book.

It’s not NYT Bestseller stuff by any stretch, but not at all bad for a debut from an unknown indie author with no massive social media following, no industry connections, no money for promotion, no offering the book for free (except as advance review copies) and thus far no 99 cent sales.

I put the number here simply to add another entry to the “Yeah, this is possible” column. You hear a lot about how “the wild west land of indie publishing opportunity is over,” but it’s still possible for readers to discover your book. There is hope. Always.

Have I made mistakes and missed opportunities? Absolutely. And I will continue to make them, and miss them. But I will also continue to read as much as I can on the industry, on what people are doing that works, and what doesn’t. I find that my instincts only work if I feed them with information.

That’s why I’m posting this for you to read. I don’t care to talk about money. I hesitated to even post sales numbers. But it’s time for me to give back to the author community that has supported me, and as I’m not comfortable offering advice, I’ll share experience. I hope my experiences will help feed your instincts.

This isn’t a road map, though.

There’s no one right way to do this, and I mistrust anyone who says there is. For me, the key is being informed, staying flexible, making decisions I’m comfortable with, never taking advantage of others for my own gain, being grateful for everything, and above all maintaining my commitment to producing quality work.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

You know what? I’m calling my word for next year. It’s going to be Flexibility.

There’s an 80% chance that this is the same word I chose last year, but that’s fine. It’s working. It means learning, it means shaking off the negative and steering for the positive. It means trying new things that might not work out, but that I also might learn from.

Next post, we’ll set some goals and talk about upcoming releases. YAY!

 

So tell me: What did you learn this year, either in your personal or professional life? Anything that might help the rest of us out?

 

**Mostly because I almost never pay more than $5 for an e-book myself, unless it’s a box set, something that I’m desperate to have, or occasionally to support author friends. I like e-books, but their limitations mean I won’t pay paperback prices for them. $5 for something I’m only licensing for personal use seems reasonable to me.^

^That said, never say never. As the industry changes, so will my opinions and tactics. This is a faintly-drawn line in the sand, not a stone wall. Flexibility!

***We can talk about this in another post, if anyone cares to. I have theories. But this post is already way too long.

 


The Writer Within

Inside the world of author AnnMarie Wyncoll

mum mutter

the mutterings of a tired mum and aspiring writer

Beth Camp

Writer of historical fiction and teller of tales . . .

rogerbloomsfield

An Aspiring Author's Adventure

Are You Finished Yet?

Life, writing, books, dragons- not necessarily in that order. Home of best-selling Fantasy author Kate Sparkes.

Life, love, writing

Sara Beth Williams, Author of Christian Romance

Allie Potts Writes

How to appreciate the everyday

Ultimately Useless Stories

~ Might as well Laugh ~

The Wordy Rose

"Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

shanjeniah.wordpress.com/

Learning. Laughter. And Loving My Glorious, Messy Life!

Little Rittwolf's Book Blog

I thought having my own blog would help me....Squirrel!....stay more focused. I could be wrong.

The Sword of Air

Stunning new multitouch iBook by breakthrough author R.J Madigan

Doorway Between Worlds

Communication tips with a creative twist

CHOUETT

Read it! 📖 Spark it! ✨

Benjamin Wallace Books

Books written by Benjamin Wallace

Denise D. Young

Wisps of Magic & Moonlight

chestnut book blog

Read. Recommend. Revel.

inkedrainbowreads.wordpress.com/

LGBT Book Reviews, Cover Reveals & More! We are a group designed to help promote and review LGBT et al books. We were created out of seeing a need and wanted to have that need filled. We pride ourseles of having opinionated reviews that are unique and helpful to the author. Welcome to a world of the best LGBT et al books out there!

Dionne Lister - Author

I love sharing my stories but I wish they wouldn't keep me awake at night

Avid Reviews

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reviews For Both Self-Published and Traditionally Published Books

Author Jen Wylie's Blog

Welcome to my mind... Blog for fantasty author Jen Wylie